Surrey to use gainshare windfall to push superfast broadband further
The targets of the various BDUK projects have always been mis-quoted and even today years into the programmes mistakes still happen.
"The investment announced today is insufficient to enable all 15,300 properties without access to superfast broadband to receive a service.
This contradicts the original plans by the county council which was to provide almost 100 per cent coverage of superfast broadband across Surrey.
In this digital age, Superfast Broadband is a necessity to access Government information and services.
It is a basic utility which must be provided to all Surrey premises.Councillor Hazel Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council
The Councillor was talking to thisislondon and unfortunately has confused the original 'within a whisker of 100% fibre availability' with superfast coverage levels. Targets generally using the terms NGA or fibre availability do not include any speed qualifiers, i.e. someone who got 1.1 Mbps from ADSL and now gets 2.4 Mbps from VDSL2 would qualify. Superfast coverage has two baseline speed figures of above 24 Mbps if working to Westminster, or the EU (and much preferred version) of 30 Mbps or faster.
For those in Surrey it is worth a read of the decision the council has taken to take the gainshare money from BT and re-use this £3.8m to reach as many as possible of the 15,300 premises that still below a speed threshold of 15 Mbps.
The report is clear in that the contractual targets of the original contract have been met and the gainshare (clawback) money could have sat dormant until the end of the contract and be released back to the Council and Westminster or based on the content of mail bags used to try and take things beyond the existing contract. Approval has been given for the additional roll-out to be done via the existing BT contract, this reduces costs for the council i.e. no procurement exercise to run and increases the speed with which things might actually happen. A key thing for any Surrey Council Tax payers is that this extra roll-out does not need any money from the council and any cost overruns to hit the new target once fully defined will be the responsibility of BT - thus avoiding that age old procurement trick of promising the earth for a lower cost than anyone else and then using change control to increase it to the same cost as others years down the road.
There are questions over whether 98.8% NGA coverage is within a whisker of 100% and with value for money still being a key driver for councils whether spending more local money to guarantee 100% superfast coverage is that important compared to other spending.
A mix of techniques will be used, from extra infill VDSL2 cabinets and native GEA-FTTP, but Fibre to the Remote Node is also mentioned, the later is rarer than FTTP but basically means rather than a full-size green VDSL2 cabinet a small box that can go in the ground or on a pole is used to serve 8 to 16 premises with VDSL2 (or maybe even G.fast possibly).
Browse map of Surrey and the rest of the UK
The map above of the postcodes believed to be under 10 Mbps across Surrey above gives some idea of where these 15,300 premises are located, the question will be how far can the £3.8 million stretch and that will depend on the technology and evaluations of cost to each cluster. If a pure FTTP expansion was undertaken we might see 4000 or so premises benefit and if the council could be certain of more clawback in the future this would be ideal.
The author is one of those in Surrey where 1 maybe two properties in the postcode can get above 25 Mbps, but is in the 15 to 20 Mbps range with the other neighbours tailing off down the speed ladder, so where the roll-out goes is certainly of interest. The timetable is that the extended roll-out could start in April and finish in December 2018.